7 October 2009
Levin Salvation Army Hall

Because of the location I feel obliged to present my other identity, which normally I only do at free software speeches.

Occasionally I’ve been accused of having a holier than thou attitude, but I think that’s a mistaken accusation. Because when I meet somebody who doesn’t campaign for free software, my wish is not to use him as a contrast, to show how much better I am, but to convince him to love free software just as much, and be just as good. So what I have is not a holier than thou attitude—it’s a holy attitude, because I am a saint. I’m supposed to be holy.

I am Saint Ignucius, of the Church of Emacs. I bless your computer my child.

Emacs started out as a text editor which I wrote—an extensible text editor. You could reprogram it in the middle of using it, and it became a way of life for many users, because it was extended so much that they could do all of their computing without ever exiting from Emacs. Then it became a church with the launch of the newsgroup alt.religion.emacs, which you might be able to visit. Today in the Church of Emacs we have a great schism between several rival versions of Emacs, and we also have saints, but fortunately no gods. Instead of gods we adore an editor.

To be a member of the Church of Emacs, you must recite the confession of the faith. You must say “There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels.” If you become a wizard and a hacker, you can then celebrate that with our ceremony called the foobar mitzvah, where you stand in front of a congregation of hackers and chant lines of system source code. Because in the Church of Emacs, our holy books are not withheld from the community—everyone can see the source code.

We also have the cult of the Virgin of Emacs. The Virgin of Emacs is anyone who has not yet learned to use Emacs, and according to the Church of Emacs, offering the Virgin an opportunity lose his or her Emacs virginity is considered a blessed act.

Our church has various advantages compared with other churches that I won’t mention. For instance, to be a saint in the Church of Emacs does not require celibacy, but it does require living a life of moral purity. You must exorcise whatever evil proprietary operating systems have possessed computers under your control, and install a wholly free operating system, and then only install and use free software with and on that system. If you make this vow and you live by it, then you too will be a saint, which means you too will have the right to wear a halo—if you can find one because they don’t make them any more.

Sometimes people ask me whether it is a sin in the Church of Emacs to use the other editor vi. It’s true that vi vi vi is the editor of the beast, but using a free implementation of vi is not a sin, it’s a penance. There has been a historic rivalry between Emacs and vi, you see.

Sometimes people ask me whether my halo is really an old computer disk—this is no computer disk, this is my halo. But it was a computer disk in a previous existence.

So thank you.

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